One of my goals in 36 before 36 was to go social media free for a whole week. To some, this might seem ridiculously easy, but to me it was daunting. You can read more about the how's and why's of my challenge here.
I began my challenge Sunday at noon. The timing is important here, because like any good addict, I went on a bit of a binge in the hours leading up to my cutoff time. Just one more status update! Let me "like" a few more pictures! Retweet, retweet, retweet! I didn't want to mess with deleting/reactivating my accounts, so I decided I would just leave everything as is and avoid checking it. As the notifications began to roll in on my IPhone, I realized that it would be impossible for me not to peek, so I simply deleted my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps. Ouch.
I spent Sunday at a Bengals game, and then with friends, followed by a trip to the grocery. I was not tempted at all to check when I was in the company of others, but what I did realize is how much time I spend on my phone when I'm alone. In line at the bathroom at the stadium, waiting for my groceries to be bagged, in the 2 minutes it took to warm my food in the microwave...all of these provided opportunities for me to take out the phone and see what was going on in cyberworld. Quite simply, I realized that I have little to no time during my day when I'm not connected in some way. Did I miss hearing about how many loads of laundry my friends did that day or seeing yet another picture of someone's dinner? Nope, just as I'm sure they did just fine without seeing more of the same for me. It wasn't the content I missed, it was the interaction itself.
The first thing I did after shutting off my cell phone alarm was check for notifications. In my sleepy state I was confused...why weren't there any? Doesn't anyone love me anymore? Oh yeah... Is this really the first thing I "need" to do each day?
Today also begins the second phase of my challenge: no texting between 7 am and 7 pm. This is harsh. I love to text. Love. It. What's ironic is that I was one of the last holdouts to even enable texting on my phone...it seemed like such a waste of time. I also remember 10 pounds ago when I thought alcohol was gross. Sigh.
Anyway, just like yesterday, I felt a rush of panic as 7 am neared. I sent out several texts before the deadline came crashing down. And again, just like yesterday, I realized how much of my downtime was spent on my phone. During my lunch and planning period alone I probably reached for my phone 20 times. It was shutoff, but it was killing me to know if anyone had sent me a message, even though I knew I would find out later that day. Yes, I was the kid who searched for my Christmas presents every year. By noon, I felt disconnected, bored, and kind of angry at myself for doing this. Wah.
2:30: I'm not missing social media, but I engage in a full out texting binge. I'm filled with a mixture of satisfaction and shame.
As the day closes, I'm actually feeling kind of liberated without social media, but I've convinced myself that there is no reason on earth I should deny myself communicating in meaningful ways via texting. (addict talk, I know)
It's election day, and I have mixed emotions about my decision to ditch Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram this particular week. I follow various news sources on Twitter, and I'd like to be able to get updates tonight while I'm standing in line at the polls and waiting for my daughter to wrap up at cheer practice (can we agree that there's no good reason for a 5th grader to be working spirit fingers until 9 pm on a school night? Seriously). On the other hand, Facebook is always good for getting me riled up on politics, as 90% of my friends don't vote with me. The 10% who do are my relatives, so I guess I can just text them for camaraderie later and avoid wanting to go all Gloria Steinem on someone's ass.
Perhaps the most painful part of today is the fact that I'm wearing my awesome red heels in a show of sassy patriotism, and I'm pretty sure Instagram would be a better place if I could post a picture of them. I'm also jealous my mug will be absent from the legion of "I just voted" selfies that are sure to be dominating the newsfeeds. Sigh.
I have abandoned ship completely on not texting until 7 pm, but I am also noticing that without the added curiosity of checking social media, I'm not looking at my phone as often. Baby steps, small victories, and all that jazz.
8:00 pm: I'm dying for a Twitter fix to follow election results. Instead, I turn on my television and try to find a news channel. I've watched this thing so rarely in the last year I've owned it that I don't even know what channel MSNBC is. As I watch the results roll in and I see that my home state, Ohio, gives Obama the win, I want so badly to go online and post a celebratory status, but avoid it. I go to bed happy but feeling a little disconnected.
I wake up to several texts from friends who say I'm lucky not to be on Facebook because of some horribly offensive posts. This is straw that breaks this unicorn's back (camels are gross), and I log in. I avoid making comments on anyone's posts, and instead just start deleting friends. You're sad about the outcome? You stay. You make an off color statement that hints at racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, or that anyone who voted for Obama is lazy...peace out. The disgust I feel from scrolling through just a few hours of updates makes me grateful I've missed the last several days. I'm beginning to really question the roll I want social media to play in my life, log off, and don't look back.
Just before leaving the house, I sit with my 6 year old as he finishes his breakfast. He tells stories and asks questions about bungee jumping, the election, and his ten year old sister's sudden infatuation with lip gloss. He does all of this wearing a hat he's decorated as a turkey ninja, and he genuinely has me belly laughing. It crosses my mind that on any other day, I would likely be half listening as I checked newsfeeds on Twitter and Facebook, and I totally would've missed this time of pure enjoyment. I snap a picture of him in his cuteness, and instead of sharing it with the world online, I simply send it to a couple of people I know will appreciate it and might need a smile.
This makes me realize something else...how often I communicate with the masses instead of one person at a time, in a deliberate fashion. In turn, I consider how many people in my life with whom I only interact online. Since beginning this experiment, I've heard from maybe 10 different people I'm "friends" with on social media. Does this mean that they (or I) are bad friends? Of course not. It simply means that if I'm not willing to text or call them in regards to a matter, maybe I don't need to post it online, because it obviously doesn't matter much. Furthermore, is there a need for such "friendships"? How much limitations should I set in regards to who I "friend" online? All of my accounts are set to private, and I'm at around 200 friends on Facebook and 100 on Twitter and Instagram, all a combination of friends, family, clients, and groups.
As I head into the last few days of the experiment, I'm reconsidering how I will use the resources in the future. I will update everyone within a week to let you know how the final days went, as well as the overall impact of the experiment itself.